I have been avoiding the “Tidal For All” video on YouTube for about a week. Just as I have been avoiding any news having to do with the launch of the streaming service. However, some news is unavoidable (and yet predictable). Not long after Jay-Z announced the launch of Tidal, his Reasonable Doubt album was pulled from rival Spotify. Beyoncé has released a new video meant to be exclusively available on Tidal, as has protegé Rihanna. With Jay-Z linking big names to his streaming venture, I wondered why there was a building backlash against his new project.
So I went and found that “Tidal for All” video…and it became abundantly clear why I felt in the pit of my stomach that this entire Tidal business was a bad idea, one that is destined to flop.
Okay so maybe “flop” is a strong word for the outcome of this streaming service. I will say instead that Tidal is destined for mediocrity as Apple’s upcoming streaming service will likely take center stage.
Why am I so certain? Well, I’ve seen this before. And if you’re old enough to recognize names like Napster, Kazaa, and Ares Galaxy and the drama surrounding those services more than a decade ago, you’ve seen this before, too. For those of you who are too young or were too young at the time to appreciate “the movement” against music piracy and free streaming services allow me to bring you up to speed: It failed spectacularly.
Not only that, but the finger-wagging by multi-million dollar artists and multi-billion dollar corporations didn’t go over very well with the public. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs decided to test a theory: If music were sold at reasonably low prices, people would be more than happy to pay rather than steal.
Apple acquired Sound Jam and nearly a year later iTunes was born. Apple then went out of its way to put itself firmly on the side of the public (at least on the surface…they’re apparently pushing the anti-free music agenda behind the scenes). People could buy cheap mp3s or rip/burn CDs with no consequences or sanctimonious speeches about “downloading cars.” While that served to anger the dinosaurs that hate the internet and person-to-person services, it signaled an inevitable paradigm shift away from physical CDs to digital music acquisition.
While streaming services are not new (some of us enjoyed AccuRadio back in the day…), Spotify appears to be the new Napster in the eyes of the music industry and today’s wealthy, established artists. In true deja vu fashion, bloated, self-important individuals and a music industry struggling to play catch-up with technology have actively conspired against Spotify and all it allegedly stands for. And once again, Apple is in the corner coming up with a new service inspired by the digital music controversy of today.
— JustJared.com (@JustJared) April 1, 2015
Just as it bought Sound Jam, the company acquired Dr. Dre’s Beats Music in 2014. Apple will no doubt dismantle and relaunch the streaming service as a product firmly in line with the computer giant’s look and vision. Apple may not be as “innovative” as the company likes to insist that it is, but one thing I will say for it: It’s always at the right place, at the right time, and with an improved version of an existing product or service.
Jay-Z and Tidal are also going to learn that when it comes to snuffing out the competition, Apple can be absolutely ruthless. Word on the street is that Apple is already working overtime to lure artists away from Tidal. This only makes sense as Jay-Z’s insistence on offering exclusive content from the beginning could be taken as shots fired at Apple (and their earnings). Jay-Z may not want to compete directly with Apple, preferring to pick on Spotify. However, Apple is likely not going to be interested.
Apple and Beats Developing Streaming Music Service to Rival Spotify: In what would be the biggest change to it… http://t.co/MmJGATd8cl
— Jermaine Dupri (@jermainedupri) April 6, 2015
Look for Apple to launch a streaming service with hotter, younger, fresher talent than Jay-Z’s line up and for a price cheaper than both Spotify and Tidal. The ironic part? I expect Spotify to fare better in the wake of Apple’s launch than Tidal as it already has something that Jay-Z never asked around about during his back-patting session: the public on its side.
One only has to look at the negative responses to the “Tidal For All” video to glean that this is an essential component for survival that the supposedly “egoless” artists behind Tidal didn’t stop to think that they needed really badly and simply does not have. I mean, what positive thing can you say about a group of people who paint themselves as the saviors of music and technology in a what amounts as a disturbingly out-of-touch ode to Kony 2012?
Who do you think will emerge on top of music streaming when the dust settles: Tidal, Apple, Spotify, or another rival altogether?
[Image Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Staff/Getty Images]